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Pathlight Magazine

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A quarterly literary journal featuring translations of the best contemporary Chinese fiction and poetry.

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浮城Wang ShouDai QingCat CountryDaniel Nieh

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Wang Shou

Dai Qing

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We publish a complete free-to-read short story on the web every Thursday. The newest story is below. See all stories.

Moonlight in the Lotus Pond

by Zhu Ziqing, translated by Peter Richardson

zhu ziqing

For the last few days I have been feeling quite unsettled, but when I sat taking the air in the courtyard this evening, my thoughts suddenly turned to the lotus pond that I go past every day. It must look quite different in the light of the full moon. And so, with the moon gradually rising and the sound of children’s laughter in the street fading beyond the wall, I left my wife in the house stroking Ruan and crooning folk tunes in a daze, q...

Recent Posts

A Bad Year for China

2016 is, everyone agrees, a bad year for China. Usually, what a bad year consists of is everyone telling each other “It’s a bad year here in China”. But there’s good evidence that this year is objectively worse than most. First, there’s Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption crusade, which might be a righteous attempt to return the government to the strait and narrow, but also might be a thinly-disguised campaign to rid the official ranks of the less-than-loyal – and, sadly, is probably both. The past twelve months seem have been a record season for lawyer jailing which is always a really, really bad sign. The internet occasionally verges on unusable. Hong Kong booksellers are disappearing. For some reason, the fact that women’s-rights activist Xiao Meili was stopped by police outside the Beijing Bookworm and turned back from an event she was supposed to attend really drove it home for me.

Even in better times, China’s publishing industry generally leads the nation in gratuitous timidity. The echo-chamber effect is particularly strong here – whispered rumors, sidelong glances, knowing nods, and then the quiet consensus that “we’d better not risk it”. In a country where everyone is kept guessing by the capriciousness of those in power, publishers seem to have more sensitive antennae than pretty much anyone else out there. And apart from occasional meetings with SAPRFFT (where the government directives rarely amount to anything more specific than “be careful, this is a bad year for China”), publishers don’t have much more to go on than water-cooler gossip.

That, and the occasional castastrophic exercise of brute authority.

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By Eric Abrahamsen, May 27 '16, 11:20p.m.

4 comments

10 CHINESE WOMEN WHOSE WRITING SHOULD BE TRANSLATED

Paper Republic collective and friends put together this list for LitHub.com:

"Most readers nowadays, asked to name a contemporary Chinese writer, could manage at least one. But the odds are that it will be a man. Yet the near-invisibility of Chinese women writers internationally is entirely undeserved. They flourish on the literary scene at home and have done so since the beginning of the New Culture Movement in the early twentieth century. We are quite proud that this list (drawn up by the Paper-Republic.org collective and friends) ranges so widely. There’s something here for everyone, from travel literature to novels and short story collections, from fantasy and sci-fi to meditations on love and loneliness, with plenty of dark humor along the way. We have included works from all over the Chinese-writing world–mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan (and one from USA too)."

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By Nicky Harman, May 25 '16, 3:03p.m.

5 comments

MAO BADGES — RED, BRIGHT AND SHINY (AND OPEN TO EVERY FORM OF CAPITALIST SPECULATION)

Terrific article by Helen Wang and Paul Crook:

"The British Museum collection of Mao badges currently stands at about 350 pieces. It’s part of the UK’s national collection of badges from all over the world. Since the catalogue of Mao badges was published, every so often I receive emails from people who have their own Mao badge collections, often numbering in the hundreds or thousands. One such person is Clint Twist, who, with only a little encouragement a couple of years ago, set up what is probably the first English language website devoted to Mao badges — and tweets a Mao badge almost every day @clinttwist.

More recently, I discovered that one of the British Museum volunteers, Paul Crook, had been a teenage Mao badge dealer in Beijing in the 1960s! Paul — who was recently interviewed by the BBC for a segment on posters from the Mao era — kindly agreed to talk about that time, vividly confirming Dikötter’s statement that “badges were the most hotly traded pieces of private property during the first years of the Cultural Revolution, open to every form of capitalist speculation.”

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By Nicky Harman, May 25 '16, 2:59p.m.

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Ubiquitous 50 Cent Gang (五毛党): Appearances in Contemporary Chinese Fiction?

One out of 178 social media posts in China's cybersphere are authored and posted by a government employee — totaling 488 million annual posts — according to a new report written by professors at Harvard, Stanford, and the University of California.

It is based partly on analysis of leaked e-mails (43,000!) from an Internet Propaganda Office in Jiangxi. It appears that most are intended to distract the public from bad news. You can read about the report here and here, or download the 34-page PDF here.

So much for quantitative research. I'm more interested in how the 50c Party (五毛党) plays out in contemporary Chinese fiction. I recall the way author Stephen Koonchung recreated one of China's first real social-media-driven “mass incidents” (trucks carrying hundreds of dogs to slaughter in Beijing were blocked by activists thanks to real-time messaging) in his Kafkaesque Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver. Such scenes in a novel can be quite effective in sensitizing readers to the phenomenon, perhaps more than any single statistics-studded report.

My questions:

  1. Is it permissible to write in detail about such government-sponsored propaganda in short stories, novellas or novels?
  2. How are Chinese fiction writers portraying the impact of the 50c Gang on conversation in shaping public opinion?
  3. Titles of works of Chinese fiction in which 50c Gang activities or members figure prominently?

By Bruce Humes, May 20 '16, 8:28p.m.

2 comments

Results of the 2016 Bai Meigui Translation Competition

We are delighted to announce the results of the 2016 Bai Meigui translation competition, a collaboration between Paper Republic and the Writing Chinese project at Leeds University. Over 80 entrants submitted translations of the competition text by 李静睿 Li Jingrui, and it was only after lengthy deliberation (and the occasional threat of violence) that the judges were able to narrow the shortlist down to just one winner and runner-up:

Winner:
Luisetta Mudie

Runner-up:
Petula Parris

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By David Haysom, May 10 '16, 7:43a.m.

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Author Yan Lianke: The Reign of "温暖的文学"

Speaking recently at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Chinese author Yan Lianke (閻連科) spoke about the ominous rise of a "warm and fuzzy" kind of Chinese literature (温暖的文学) that the government, readers and critics all find acceptable. Here is an excerpt from notes taken at the talk (thus they may not be his exact words) which appear in an article 中國文學的唱衰者 at the newly launched (and interesting) Chinese-language web site, theinitiam.com:

中國文學進入新的冷凍期,但絕對不會回到80年代清除精神污染時期,那是要排除所有西方文化對我們的影響。今天的中國讀者非常了解世界文學的現狀。

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By Bruce Humes, May 1 '16, 7:51p.m.

10 comments

China's Thinkingdom Media Invests in Editions Philippe Picquier

According to a 2016-04-28 report (战略投资) in The Paper (澎湃讯), Thinkingdom Media Group Ltd (新经典文化) has made a “strategic investment” in France’s Editions Philippe Picquier. The report does not specify the $ amount or portion of the French publisher that is now in Chinese hands. Picquier is already a major French-language publisher of Chinese fiction writing including titles by Yu Hua, Wang Anyi, Alai, Su Tong, Han Shaogong, Bi feiyu, Chi Zijian, Ge Fei, Liang Hong and Li Er.

Some 15,000 copies of Wang Anyi’s 《长恨歌》(Le Chant des regrets éternels) have sold in French, according to the news item. Picquier's first venture into the world of translated Chinese popular fiction publishing was apparently Wei Hui's naughty Shanghai Baby, back in the early 2000s.

It will be interesting to see if and how Thinkingdom uses Picquier as a platform for the campaign to bring more contemporary Chinese literature in translation to the Francophone world.

By Bruce Humes, April 30 '16, 7:44p.m.

6 comments

"White Deer Plain" Author Chen Zhongshi Dies

Chen Zhongshi, Shaanxi-based author of the 20th-century classic, White Deer Plain (白鹿原, 陈忠实著), has died.

Three thoughts:

1) White Deer Plain has been published in French, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese. Anyone working on the English, and if not, why not?

2) The novel was published in 1993. Any insights into why he wrote relatively little thereafter?

3) How to render the first line of White Deer Plain --- especially ---:

白嘉轩后来引以豪壮的是一生里娶过七房女人。

By Bruce Humes, April 29 '16, 7:47p.m.

10 comments

Jade laptops and a library of books...

Natascha Bruce talks about starting out as a Chinese-to-English translator: "....it actually never occurred to me to make the link between literature existing in translation, and there being real people out there creating those translations. I don’t know what I would have said I thought happened, if pushed? That once you have studied Chinese for one hundred years and can prove, for certain, that you know everything – will catch every single hidden reference to a Tang poem without missing a beat – there’s a special ceremony and you are given a laptop made of jade and a library of books, and told to go forth and be the person to make them accessible to the English-reading world, something mystical like that."

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By Nicky Harman, April 21 '16, 4:11p.m.

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Interview with Helen Wang, Translator of Cao Wenxuan

The big recent news in Chinese children's literature is Cao Wenxuan's winning of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award, sometimes called the "Nobel Prize for Children's Literature". It's a big deal inside China, where the media closely watches the progress of the prize.

Like the Nobel, the prize is given to a writer for their entire oeuvre, not for any book in particular, but despite this everyone still points to works in particular. In this case, that's probably Bronze and Sunflower, translated by Helen Wang and published in the UK last year by Walker Books. In honor of the win, we conducted an email interview with Helen about her views on Cao's works (in case you didn't know, Helen is also one of the editors of Read Paper Republic, and is currently to be found representing PR at the London Book Fair). See below for the full interview.

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By Eric Abrahamsen, April 13 '16, 5:42a.m.

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Call for Summer Interns

Paper Republic is looking for an intern in Beijing to work with us on literary and publishing events this year, from late spring to early fall. Think you might be interested? Drop us a line!

What’s going on this year

In addition to our usual activities, Paper Republic is running two larger events this year, and need more hands on deck. In late June we’re hosting a publishing fellowship, where publishers and editors will come from around the world to spend a week in Beijing, getting to know Chinese writers and publishers. Then in late August is the Beijing International Book Fair, when we’ll be conducting a small literary festival as part of the Fair.

Who we’re looking for

We need someone in Beijing with an interest (and preferably experience) in literature, publishing, and translation. We’re really hoping to find someone who is strong in both English and Chinese, but don’t mind what nationality you are. We need someone who’s organized, motivated and creative, and who thrives on the unexpected.

We need someone who can dedicate at least fifteen hours week to the job, preferably more, and who can join us at our office in Beijing at least two days a week.

What you’ll be doing

Helping us plan literary and publishing events, arranging itineraries and schedules, writing news copy, liaising with publishers and editors, and picking famous writers up from the airport.

What we can provide you

A fun working environment with entertaining co-workers, a chance to meet all manner of people, a small monthly stipend, letters of recommendation, good coffee, and some unique experiences.

What next?

If you think you fit the bill, and are available from around April to the end of August, get in touch with us at info@paper-republic.orgs. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

By Eric Abrahamsen, March 30 '16, 1:40a.m.

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